Academic Literature

Employability – A fuzzy notion, often ill-defined and sometimes not defined at all

According to Gazier, the concept of employability was first used at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was based on the dichotomy between ‘‘employable’’ individuals (capable and willing and/or needing to work) versus ‘‘unemployable’’ individuals (unable to work and who needed help). An economic conception of employability was then developed so as to achieve full employment through government measures designed to facilitate access to the labor market, especially for the most needy in a social democrat conception of society. In the 1950s and 1960s the emphasis was placed on the attitude toward work and on self-image; in the 1970s the emphasis shifted to knowledge and abilities. In the 1980s organizational approaches emerged that considered employability and the development of transferable skills as a way to increase people’s flexibility. Since the 1990s, the scope of employability has been extended to include the active population in general. Several scientific contributions have addressed the role of individuals in keeping and developing their employability during a transition between two occupations and within a specific occupation. The notion of ‘‘interactive employability’’ was introduced which ‘‘maintains the focus on individual adaptation, but introduces a collective/interactive priority’’.

Following these changes over time, different levels of objectives can be identified. Governments for example aim to achieve full employment, employers seek to find the best match between the needs of the company and available skills, and individuals are focused on optimizing their career trajectories. These objectives have been studied using different interdependent and complementary approaches to employability. This has resulted in multiple definitions and operationalizations for this concept, which Gazier described as being a ‘‘fuzzy notion, often ill-defined and sometimes not defined at all’’. Recently, several authors have endeavored to categorize studies to clarify the concept of employability  Although the categories they propose differ somewhat, three main, non exclusive perspectives can be identified: educational and governmental, organizational, and individual.

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Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  Employability: review and research prospects

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